The Comfort of Rituals

Nearly nine years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not a happy time, as I’m sure readers can imagine. But when it comes to having breast cancer, I was one of the lucky ones: my cancer was very slow growing, no lymph nodes were infected, and treatment included a lumpectomy and radiation but no chemotherapy. Four years ago, my doctor pronounced me cured, such a sweet word.

Nevertheless, for every yearly mammogram, I am so nervous and jittery that I can barely think of anything else. (Fortunately, York Hospital, the place I go, gives results fifteen or twenty minutes after the mammogram.) But over the years, I have developed some rituals to help with the jitters.

First, I wear these earrings that belonged to my mother, who had breast cancer in the mid-1970s, the beginning of what can only be called an epidemic. I am still inspired by her courage and fortitude in dealing with her cancer at a time when people didn’t really speak of such things.

Then, in the car, I must listen to Vivaldi, even though my natural inclination is for alternative rock. Somehow I am both cheered up and calmed down by Vivaldi’s joyous, exuberant bursts of music punctuated by exquisite tenderness.

Finally, I meet my friend Susan Poulin for lunch at a place called When Pigs Fly.Β  Susan is an extremely talented performer and comedian. I don’t think I’m exaggerating by calling Susan Poulin one of Maine’s best.Β  Her alter ego is Ida LeClair, who is from northern Maine, lives in a double-wide, and has a beloved husband named Charlie. Ida’s zest for life can’t be matched, and here she is, ready to go.

Is it any wonder that having lunch with Susan cheers me up?

Now, I know that in truth it doesn’t make a bit of difference if I wear my mother’s earrings, listen to Vivaldi, or have lunch with Susan at When Pigs Fly. What is, will be.

But these things give me comfort, and for that reason, they are important.

And I am happy to report that this year’s mammogram was all clear.

Phew! Onward to year ten.

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45 thoughts on “The Comfort of Rituals”

  1. Fabulous news dear Laurie and it’s lovely to have a ritual so full of love and meaning πŸ™‚πŸ’– xxx

  2. I would do exactly the same in your position and I have listened to Vivaldi during quiet or low times… impossible not to be cheered up! Wonderful to know all is clear..😍

  3. Oh, what wonderful news! What a relief: it’s done for another year. So interesting to hear how you cope with the pressures of the test. Memories of your beloved mom, good music, and lunch with a great friend sounds like a pretty good recipe. Hugs to you.

  4. Kerry really is right – rituals provide a predicable framework in an uncertain world and can help so much on days when there is stress. Glad all was well – I was called back after my last mammogram, but it turned out that it was because one of the pictures was blurry… the letter telling me I had to go back did not explain the reason and I was extremely stressed until I phoned up to find out what was going on. I wish we got results as quickly as you do.

    1. As I’ve written in other comments, all places should follow the example of York Hospital, which is as concerned with the emotional as it is with the physical. So glad your last mammogram turned out well after all!

  5. I’m glad for the good news. Using ritual imposes order and some sense of control. It’s nice that they give results so fast now in some places. I used to get the sinister “your mammogram is incomplete” letter after way too many, which was nerve wracking. Paying attention to the way people think in these situations is good. And hey! I made the oatmeal bars. I subbed out the brown sugar for Sorghum and instead of chocolate used walnuts and currants. They are yummy!

    1. Getting the results right away is the way it should be everywhere. York Hospital is really concerned about the emotional as well as the physical, and again, it should be this way with all hospitals. Glad the oatmeal bars came out well. They are wonderfully adaptive, but so frugal to make and so yummy. I make them frequently.

  6. Oh, dear Laurie. I’m so pleased you have found ways of coping with the natural anxiety that comes with such a worry. I haven’t been through that exact experience, but I hear you, I understand, and I deeply empathize.

  7. Breast cancer strikes fear in all of us. I’m so glad you are cancer free, Laurie. One year my sister in law and four friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. It certainly felt like an epidemic. I had one scare many years ago when my second son was 18 months old. it was benign, but the feeling of dread that I may not be around to raise my boys was awful. I’m glad you wrote about your journey. I’m glad you’re still on the road moving forward. xo

  8. Congratulations on 9 years! I am a firm believer in the mind-body connection. I believe that rituals can strengthen the immune system and promote wellness. Remembering your mother’s strength and vitality has powerful messages for you body. And friendship and laughter are always the best medicine. I have a very battered post card of the ocean that a fellow breast cancer survivor gave me for visualization. I can feel the strength it conveys.

  9. Wonderful news and it’s so important to have these moments of comfort and cheer to help you through!πŸ™‚ Amazed to read that the results are given so quickly and other hospitals and states need to learn from Maine.

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